Gulf Daily News
Bahrain, Jul 5: A BAN on issuing driving licences to some expats has sparked anger among the foreign community in Bahrain, with some describing it as discrimination.
It came into force around two weeks ago with the aim of helping limit congestion, a General Directorate of Traffic spokesman told the GDN yesterday.
He said those affected by the ban were foreign students and expat workers employed in 'menial' jobs.
"The regulation bans expatriate students, cooks, gardeners and labourers with menial jobs from getting a licence because they don't need it," he said.
"What would they need the licence for? Bahrain is already congested with cars and if we grant licences to everyone, what will be the state of our roads?"
However, the move has sparked anger among some of those affected by the ban.
One of those upset by the decision is an 18-year-old Pakistani citizen who has lived in Bahrain for 10 years.
The teenager said he was told he was not eligible for a learner's driver licence when he showed up to apply.
"I asked them when the ban would be lifted and they told me that it might be in a month or two," said a student who is studying accounting at Ernst & Young Training Centre.
"I have been living in Bahrain for the past 10 years and I am as Bahraini as any Bahraini national."
He described the policy as discriminatory and claimed expats are being made to feel inferior.
"They (Bahrainis) have more rights than expatriates, I agree, but depriving us of our rights is by no means an act of a democratic country," he said.
He said if the ban was to be enforced at all, it should be introduced for both Bahrainis and non-Bahrainis.
Meanwhile, a 19-year-old Pakistani who has just graduated from the Pakistan School and was also turned down for a licence described the ban as unfair.
"At first they asked me for my CPR card and when they saw that I was a Pakistani national, they told me that there was a rule that banned expatriates being issued with a licence," he said.
"I was surprised when they told me that I could not register because I was a foreigner."
Meanwhile, Pakistan Embassy counsellor and community welfare attachŽ Habib Gilani said the embassy had not been informed of the new measure.
"We have not received any notice from the government or the Traffic Directorate regarding this issue," he said.
"I believe that a driving licence is a necessity in Bahrain, but no complaints have been brought to us regarding this issue."
British Embassy deputy head of mission Stephen Harrison described the matter as an issue for the General Directorate of Traffic.
"We do not interfere in any Bahraini regulations," he said.
Meanwhile, Indian Embassy officials were unavailable for comment, while the US Embassy declined to comment.